2021 Can-Am Spyder RT & RT Limited Review

Text: Caleb McInturff • Photography: Caleb McInturff, Marisa McInturff

In case you’ve not seen one in the wild, the Can-Am Spyder RT is a three-wheeled machine biased toward touring and travel with enough storage for two—especially on the RT Limited. In a nutshell, both of them are capable and very comfortable touring machines.

The 2021 Spyder RTs are powered by a 1330cc Rotax engine with 115 claimed horsepower. That’s an adequate amount, but the Spyder RT is not a scorcher, given that it weighs over 1,000 pounds when gassed up. The onset of power is smooth and predictable with the majority of the punch delivered in the low- and midrange. The engine is designed to be low maintenance, which is excellent for a machine intended for munching miles.

That power is delivered through a semi-automatic transmission to the rear wheel via a belt. The transmission is a paddle-style shifter and is actuated up and down by your left thumb and index finger respectively. It comes with a reverse gear, which is good because I’m comfortable saying not many people reading this would want to Fred Flintstone the Spyder backward. The transmission is a “smooth operator” and it’s got a “sophisticated hydraulic clutch system,” according to Can-Am’s blurb. 

However, like many other cars and motorcycles I’ve driven that are equipped with this type of transmission, it can be a bit unpredictable. I found that regardless of when or how I shifted, the transmission would change gears smoothly or somewhat aggressively seemingly at random. Also, the transmission will downshift automatically, but won’t upshift without rider input, and I sometimes  found myself asking: “Why did you downshift there?” I rode two different Spyders and both were brand new, so I’ll give Can-Am the benefit of the doubt and hope the transmission breaks in and smooths out a bit.

 

Long Legs

Looks are, of course, always subjective but I think the new model looks great. It looks more like a low roadster than the previous Spyder models. Despite its more aggressive appearance, luxury touring is the aim with the Spyder RT. It’s equipped with cruise control, an electronically adjustable windscreen, and a stereo that supports Bluetooth and app connectivity. The Spyder is also equipped with a bright colorful 7.8-inch LCD screen that displays plenty of relevant ride information. The suspension is supple and soaks up even large bumps nicely. 

The RT and the RT Limited are both tailor-made for touring, but the Limited would be my choice if traveling with a partner. They have an incredible amount of storage, more than some small cars I’ve owned. In case the side boxes and the front storage area—or “frunk,” as my wife and I affectionately refer to it—aren’t enough for you, the Limited includes a painted-to-match topbox with extra speakers that provides a supportive backrest and can also hold two large helmets. The top case also has additional brake lighting and USB charging ports inside. 

Perhaps most importantly, the Limited is also equipped with a shock that adjusts automatically when your passenger climbs aboard. I find this a necessary upgrade if you ride two-up often since it greatly enhances the ride quality.

 

Crawling Around

On the topic of handling, in general, these Spyders skitter along perfectly fine and handle any road well. However, I didn’t want to push them through corners. The comfortable soft suspension causes the Spyder to experience body roll and, although it will handle fast curves just fine, cruising is where it’s happiest. 

Since I was riding in the Midwest, I had adequate time to assess the Spyder’s manners on long straight highways. Thanks to the wind and the Spyder’s large profile, I found that I had to give it constant input to keep going straight down the road, unlike with a two-wheeled motorcycle where you can adjust your lane position by slightly leaning your hips in the direction you’d like to travel. This is the natural result of having three versus two wheels on the ground. However, I did get used to the race-car-fast steering rack and power steering fairly quickly. 

 

A True Touring Machine

The Spyder is a wonderful travel companion. The wind protection can only be described as absolute—riding one is almost like driving a convertible with the top down. With the wind screen at the highest setting, I breezed through some substantial rain without getting wet. I even found myself not wearing my earplugs as they were pretty much unnecessary in my little pocket of still air. 

The LED headlights are super bright and, like the wind protection, are more comparable to new car headlights than most motorcycles. In case you miss a road hazard despite the bright illumination, you’d better be ready to do some stopping if you give the brake a good stab. The Spyder RT comes equipped with Brembo braking hardware that would do a good job stopping a small car. They’re so good, in fact, that I wasn’t even able to test the ABS. I just couldn’t get them to lock on dry pavement doing my usual sensible testing. They also come equipped with traction control, but I was never able to feel it working despite hammering it in a few loose corners. It certainly gives me confidence in the electronic safety package.

Riding across the vastness of the American Midwest on the ultra-comfortable seat with the cruise control set and the radio blaring was a seriously good time. The Spyder is easy to ride and does what it’s meant to do well. Anyone could spend an hour or so getting familiar with one and be ready to safely ride cross-country where two-wheeled bikes require a higher degree of finesse and time to learn. The best quality of these machines by far is their accessibility. My wife, Marisa, had recently undergone a serious knee surgery and was unable to embark on one of our typical two-wheel rides, so the Spyders were absolutely perfect for getting back on the road a touch sooner than the doctor maybe would’ve liked. 

That’s really the crux of it—at the end of the day, these arachnids get more people into motorsports and help them enjoy the riding life longer.